Texas Tech students receive hands-on experience with early childhood development and education through research center
The Child Development Research Center (CDRC) is operated by the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) in the College of Human Sciences. The center serves about 100 local children by providing educational and developmental programs.
“Our goals include providing an individualized, developmentally appropriate program for each child in our care; making sure our classrooms are culturally, socioeconomically, and ability diverse; fulfilling and exceeding our main function of serving as a lab school and research center; as well as serving as a model for developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood education in the community and region,” HDFS alumna and senior teacher at the center, Casey Garcia said.
At the CDRC, university students can work with children aged six weeks to five years through lab classes, practicum experiences, and research opportunities. Students can work in a lab with faculty and graduate students who bring forth new and innovative research studies, be hired as student assistants in the classroom or office and work at the center to fulfill practicum hours.
“I began my duties as a student assistant in the Raider Red classroom,” HDFS student Bry Rodriguez said. “I was greeted every day with joy from my coworkers and the teachers of the center. I was immediately able to connect with the children and learn how to interact with them all in a way that best suits their developmental abilities.”
One of the reasons the center is an excellent place for university students to gain hands-on experience and observe is its focus on serving as a community example for childcare centers in the local community.
“The CDRC regularly presents the Marjie Collins Early Connections for Lifelong Learning Conference in which teachers present alongside other professionals in the field of Early Childhood Education to childcare providers and teachers in the community/region,” CDRC teacher Leslie Kacal said.
The center's community involvement goes beyond the field of early childhood education. The CDRC gives annually to charity initiatives such as Santa for Seniors, Raider Red's Food Pantry, Buckner Children and Family Services, and the Center for Early Head Start. Teachers at the center also mentor early childhood educators during their first three years in the classroom. The center participates in local events as well.
“We also annually have a stop on the First Friday Art Trail where we showcase the children's artwork and a stop on the City of Lubbock's Annual Pumpkin Trail,” Kacal said.
The CDRC often collaborates with other campus centers and research initiatives to improve and enhance the human condition, but recently the center has collaborated with OLE! Texas (Texas Tech Coalition for Natural Learning) to redesign the outdoor learning environment.
“We have worked closely with OLE! Texas by attending workshops, helping to design our ideal outdoor learning environment which will serve as a future model site to educate childcare and design professionals throughout this region,” Kacal said. “The playground will be completed in phases, with the first phase being extra special to us as it honors a very special member of our CDRC family, Marjie Collins, who passed away in 2020.”
The CDRC positions itself to offer local early childhood professionals mentorship and experience to university students and valuable research opportunities for faculty and graduate students. The center has ambitious academic and philanthropic pursuits, but for many students like Rodriguez, the center is simply a great place to be.
“A new or prospective student should get involved with the center because it is a good way to get hands-on experience and to help shape the minds of our communities' children,” Rodriguez said. “Working at the CDRC is one of my favorite parts of being a Red Raider, and I look forward to going to work every day. I leave work happy, and I can confidently say this is my favorite job I have ever had.”